The record may not stand up to the closest of scrutiny, but it is pleasantly engrossing in its own way.
Man, the first time I heard this album’s first song, I was, like, “Where are the guitars? Where is that metallic post-hardcore crunch?” Well, it turns out that Alive Like Me do eventually take their time coming out swinging, but they get there. Eventually. Replaying the album does showcase its distinctively crunchy sound. Opening cut “Better Off” does boast a tempo change that’s seemingly so subtle that you really have to be paying attention to notice it. And there’s a nice wind-up music box intro to “What Did You Expect”. That’s not to mention the piano tinkle-tinkle that opens “Start Again”. So there are things that are notable about this release. You just have to work through your initial disappointment that this isn’t “metal” enough. As far as these things go, this is more pop metal than anything. With themes of believing in yourself, this is an album about the possibilities of positivity.
The quintet that makes up this Eugene, Oregon, band certainly pack a punch when they want to, as Only Forever is rife with riffs and staccato-beat drums. However, a lot of the material does sound the same with its use of anthemic choruses. In that sense, the music is predictable -- you can see where the refrain is going before you get there. That said, the music is serviceable enough. There were times where I found myself nodding my head against my best inclination. And while there isn’t a single song that grabs you by the lapels and shakes you, that does speak to the overall uniformity of the album. Overall, Only Forever is satisfying. Once you get past your initial reservations that this isn’t heavy enough, that it is practically hard rock that deemphasises the use of guitars, seemingly burying them in the mix and favouring the rhythm section, it becomes to one’s liking. The record may not stand up to the closest of scrutiny, but it is pleasantly engrossing in its own way. This is just light enough heavy rock and the band is just handsome enough that mainstream female audiences may take a shine to it. Regardless, Only Forever remains with the listener, just so long as you’re in the right headspace to enjoy it.